Tags: germany

11

sparkline

Conferencing

I just wrapped up my last speaking gig of the year. It came at the end of a streak of attending European conferences without speaking at any of them—quite a nice feeling!

I already mentioned that I was in Berlin for the (excellent) Indie Web Camp. That was immediately followed by a one-day Accessibility Club conference. It was really, really good.

I have to say, I was initially apprehensive when I saw the sheer amount of speakers on the schedule. I was worried that my attention couldn’t handle it all. But the talks were a mixture of shorter 20 minute presentations, and a few longer 40 minute presentations. That worked really well—the day fairly zipped by. And just in case you think it would hard to have an entire day devoted to accessibility, the breadth of talks was remarkably diverse. Hats off to a well-organised and well-executed event!

The next day was Beyond Tellerrand. This has my favourite conference format: two days; one track; curated; a mix of design and development (see also An Event Apart and Smashing Conference). Marc’s love and care shines through every pore of the event. I thoroughly enjoyed the talks, and the hanging out with lovely people.

Alas, I had to miss the final afternoon of Beyond Tellerrand to head home to Brighton. I needed to get back for FF Conf. It was excellent, as always. Remy and Julie really give it their all. Remy even stepped in to give a (great) talk himself this year, when a speaker couldn’t make it.

A week later, I went to Iceland for Material. I really enjoyed last year’s inaugural event, and if anything, this year’s topped it. I just love how eclectic and different the talks are, and yet it all weirdly hangs together in a thoughtfully curated way. (Oh, and Remy, when you start to put together the line-up for next year’s FF Conf, be sure to check out Charlotte Dann—her talk at Material was the perfect mix of code and creativity.)

As well as sharing an organiser with Accessibility Club, Material had a similar format—keynote talks from invited presenters, interspersed with shorter talks by locals. The mix was great. I won’t even try to describe the range of topics. I’m not sure I could explain how a conference podium morphed into a bar at the end of one of the talks. I think the best description of Material would be to say it’s like the inside of Brian’s head. In a good way.

I was supposed to be back in Brighton for one night after Material, but the stormy weather kept myself and Jessica in Reykjavik for an extra night. Thanks to Brian’s hospitality, we had a bed for the night.

There followed a long travel day as we made our way from Reykjavik to Gatwick, and then straight on to Thessaloniki, where we spent five days even though we only had the clothes we packed for the brief trip to Iceland. (Yes, we went shopping.)

I was there to speak at Voxxed Days. These events happen in various locations around the world, and just a few weeks ago, I spoke at the one in Bristol. It was …different.

After experiencing so many lovingly crafted events—Accessibility Club, Beyond Tellerrand, FF Conf, and Material—I’m afraid that Voxxed Days Thessaloniki was quite a comedown. It’s not that it was corporate per se—I believe it’s organised by developers for developers—but it felt like it was for people who worked in corporate environments. There were multiple tracks (I’m really not a fan of that), and some great speakers on the line-up like Stephanie and Simona, but the atmosphere felt kind of grim in a David Brentian sort of way. It probably wasn’t helped by the cheeky chappie of an MC who referred to one of the speakers as “darling.”

Anyway, I spoke first thing on the first day and I didn’t end up sticking around long. Normally I don’t speak and run, but I didn’t fancy the vibe of the exhibitor hall with its booth-babesque sales teams. Voxxed Days doesn’t pay its speakers so I didn’t feel any great obligation to hang around. The magnificent food and rembetika music of Thessaloniki was calling.

I just got back from Greece, and that wraps up my conference attending (and speaking) for 2018. I’ve already got a couple of events lined up for 2019. I’m delighted to be speaking at the return of Colly’s New Adventures conference. I’m less delighted about preparing a brand new talk I promised—I’m really feeling the pressure to deliver the goods at such an auspicious event with an intimidatingly superb line-up of speakers.

I’m also going to be preparing a different all-new talk for An Event Apart Seattle in March. For once, I’m going to try to make it somewhat practical and talk about service workers. If you know of any other events that might want a presentation like that in 2019, drop me a line.

Perhaps I will see you in Nottingham or in Seattle. If you’re planning on going to New Adventures, use the discount code ADACTIO10 to get 10% of the price of the conference or workshop ticket. If you’re planning on going to An Event Apart, use the discount code AEAKEITH for $100 off.

60 seconds over Idaho

I lived in Germany for the latter half of the nineties. On August 11th, 1999, parts of Germany were in the path of a total eclipse of the sun. Freiburg—the town where I was living—wasn’t in the path, so Jessica and I travelled north with some friends to Karlsruhe.

The weather wasn’t great. There was quite a bit of cloud coverage, but at the moment of totality, the clouds had thinned out enough for us to experience the incredible sight of a black sun.

(The experience was only slightly marred by the nearby idiot who took a picture with the flash on right before totality. Had my eyesight not adjusted in time, he would still be carrying that camera around with him in an anatomically uncomfortable place.)

Eighteen years and eleven days later, Jessica and I climbed up a hill to see our second total eclipse of the sun. The hill is in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Here comes the sun.

Travelling thousands of miles just to witness something that lasts for a minute might seem disproportionate, but if you’ve ever been in the path of totality, you’ll know what an awe-inspiring sight it is (if you’ve only seen a partial eclipse, trust me—there’s no comparison). There’s a primitive part of your brain screaming at you that something is horribly, horribly wrong with the world, while another part of your brain is simply stunned and amazed. Then there’s the logical part of your brain which is trying to grasp the incredible good fortune of this cosmic coincidence—that the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon and also happens to be 400 times the distance away.

This time viewing conditions were ideal. Not a cloud in the sky. It was beautiful. We even got a diamond ring.

I like to think I can be fairly articulate, but at the moment of totality all I could say was “Oh! Wow! Oh! Holy shit! Woah!”

Totality

Our two eclipses were separated by eighteen years, but they’re connected. The Saros 145 cycle has been repeating since 1639 and will continue until 3009, although the number of total eclipses only runs from 1927 to 2648.

Eighteen years and twelve days ago, we saw the eclipse in Germany. Yesterday we saw the eclipse in Idaho. In eighteen years and ten days time, we plan to be in Japan or China.

Indie Web Camp Düsseldorf

Indie Web Camp Düsseldorf took place last weekend and it was—no surprise—really excellent.

It felt really good to have one in Germany again so soon after the last one in Nuremberg. Lots of familiar faces showed up as well as plenty of newcomers.

I’m blown away by how much gets done in two short days, especially from people who start the weekend without a personal website and end it with something to call their own. Like Julie’s new site for example (and once again she took loads of great photos).

My own bit of hacking was quite different to what I got up to in Nuremberg. At that event, I was concentrating on the interface, adding sparklines and a bio to my home page. This time round I concentrated more on the plumbing. I finally updated some the code that handles webmentions. I first got it working a few year’s back at an Indie Web Camp here in Brighton, but I hadn’t really updated the code in a while. I’m much happier with the way it’s working now.

I also updated the way I’m syndicating my notes to Twitter, specifically how I send photos. Previously I was using the API method /statuses/updatewithmedia.

When I was at the Mobile @Scale event at Facebook’s London office a while back, Henna Kermani gave a talk about the new way that Twitter handles file uploads. There’s a whole new part of the API for handling that. When she got off stage, I mentioned to her that I was still using the old API method and asked how long it would be until it was switched off. She looked at incredulously and said “It’s still working‽ I thought it had been turned off already!”

That’s why I spent most of my time at Indie Web Camp Düsseldorf updating my PHP. Switching over to the TwitterOAuth library made it a bit less painful—thanks to Bea for helping me out there.

When it came time to demo, I didn’t have much to show. On the surface, my site looked no different. But I feel pretty good about finally getting around to changing the wiring under the hood.

Besides, there were plenty of other great demos. There was even some more sparklining. Check out this fantastic visualisation of the Indie Web Camp IRC logs made by Kevin …who wasn’t even in Düsseldorf; he participated remotely.

If you get the chance to attend an Indie Web Camp I highly, highly recommend it. In the meantime you can start working on your personal site. Here’s a quick primer I wrote a while back on indie web building blocks. Have fun!

100 words 049

The second day of Indie Web Camp Germany was really productive. It was amazing to see how much could be accomplished in just one day of collaborative hacking—people were posting to Twitter from their own site, sending webmentions, and creating their own micropub endpoints.

I made a little improvement to the links section of my site. Now every time I link to something, I check to see if it accepts webmentions and if it does, I ping it to let you know that I’ve linked to it.

I’ve posted the code as a gist. Feel free to use it.

100 words 048

Today was the first day of Indie Web Camp Germany here in Düsseldorf. The environment couldn’t have been better—the swank sipgate building has plenty of room, fantastic food, and ridiculously friendly people on hand to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

Day one is the discussion day. The topics fortuitously formed a great narrative starting with the simple building blocks of microformats, leading into webmentions, then authentication, and finally micropub and posting interfaces.

My brain is full after talking through these technologies in increasing order of complexity. Enough talking. Now I’m ready to start coding. Bring on day two.

100 words 047

One of the great pleasures of travelling is partaking of the local cuisine. Today I travelled to Düsseldorf. As soon as I arrived, I went out for ramen.

Wait, what?

You might be thinking that I should really be making the most of the pork and potato dishes that Germany is famed for, but the fact is that the ramen here is really good.

Düsseldorf, you see, has one of the largest Japanese populations of anywhere in Germany. It all started in the ’50s when a number of Japanese companies set up shop here.

The result: great ramen in Düsseldorf.

Smashing

It was a crazy time in Brighton last week: Reasons To Be Creative followed by Improving Reality followed by dConstruct followed by Maker Faire and Indie Web Camp. After getting some hacking done, I had to duck out of Indie Web Camp before the demos so that I could hop on a plane to Germany for Smashing Conference—the geek party was relocating from Brighton to Freiburg.

I was there to deliver the closing keynote and I had planned to reprise a talk that I had already given once or twice. But then Vitaly opened up proceedings by declaring that the event should be full of stories …and not just stories of success either; stories of failure. Then Elliot opened the show by showing some of his embarrassing early Flash websites. I decided that, in the spirit of Vitaly’s entreaty, I would try something similar. After all, I didn’t have anything quite as embarrassing as Atomic Kitten or Hilary Duff e-cards in my closet.

So I threw away my slidedeck and went Keynote commando. My laptop was connected to the projector but I only used it to bring up a browser to show embarrassing old sites like the first version of adactio.com complete with frames, tables for layout, and gratuitous DHTML animation. But I spent most of the time just talking, telling the story of how I first started making websites back when I used to live in Freiburg, and describing the evolution of The Session—a long-term project that’s given me a lot of perspective on how we often approach our work from too short a timescale.

It was fun. It was nice to be able to ditch the safety net of slides and talk off-the-cuff to a group of fellow geeks in the intimate surroundings of Freiburg’s medieval merchant’s hall.

Preparing to speak Leaving Smashingconf

I finished by encouraging people to look out the window of the merchant’s hall across to the splendid cathedral. The Freiburger Münster is a beautiful, magnificent creation …just like the web. But it’s made of sandstone and so it requires constant upkeep …just like the web. The Münsterbauverein are responsible for repairing and maintaining the building. They can only ever work on small parts at a time, but the overall result—over many generations—is a monument that’s protected for the future.

I hope that when we work on the web, we are also contributing to a magnificent treasure for the future.

Muenster

Return to Freiburg

I was in southern Germany this week to speak at the inaugural Smashing Conference. It was a really good event, packed with in-depth talks and workshops for web developers. Its practical nature contrasted nicely with the more inspirational value of dConstruct. I always say it’s good to have a balanced conference diet: too much code and I start itching for big-picture thinking; too much big-picture thinking and I start jonesing for some code.

That said, I have to admit that I missed out on quite a few of the talks. That’s because I was outside exploring Freiburg. Or should I say, I was outside rediscovering Freiburg.

I used to live there. I lived there for about six years, all told, during the ’90s. That’s where I met Jessica.

To start with, I was playing music on the streets of Freiburg. Later, I got a job in a bakery, selling bread, pretzels and all manner of excellent baked goods. Meanwhile, I was playing in a band (two bands actually: for a while I was the bassist in Leopold Kraus, the finest surf band in the Black Forest). At some point, the band decided we needed a website. I said I’d give it a go. That’s when this whole web thing started for me. I started freelancing on the side. Before too long, I was able to give up the bread-selling day job.

But after six years, Jessica and I decided that we were done with Freiburg. We moved to Brighton, where we’ve lived for twelve years now.

So it was with some excitement and a certain amount of nervous anticipation that we returned to Freiburg for the Smashing Conference. What would Freiburg be like now? Would it feel weird to be back there?

Well, Jessica has written all about what it was like to go back. I highly recommend that you read what she’s written because she puts it far better than I ever could.

Jessica has been publishing online at wordridden.com since we lived in Germany. Reading back through her posts from way back then about life in Freiburg makes me wish that I had started writing on adactio.com sooner. I don’t have much evidence of my time there: a box of cassettes (cassettes!) that the band recorded; a handful of photographs.

On this trip, I took quite a few photographs. In three days, I recorded an order of magnitude more data than I had done in six years of living in Freiburg.

Frankfurting

I seem to be spending a lot of time in German-speaking countries these days. That’s good. It means I get to practice my rusty German.

In a few weeks from now, I’ll be in Berlin for a . A few weeks ago, I was in Austria to meet some clients—I had to bite my tongue not to answer every greeting of Grüß Gott! with a response of Grüß Wissenschaft!

Tomorrow, I’m off to Franfurt for the European Accessibility Forum which takes place on Friday.

I’ll be moderating a panel on accessible web applications. I’ve made no secret of how much I enjoy moderating panels. I’m hoping that this one will be fun and informative. Alas, I don’t think my German language skills are up to the task of conducting the questioning auf Deutsch.

If you’re going to be at the conference and you’ve got a question you’d like to put to my distinguished panelists, let me know on Twitter. If the connectivity at the conference allows, I’ll keep a browser tab with Twitter open during the panel too. I’ll keep an eye on everything with the string “eafra”, so—much as I hate hashtags—I guess posting a remark with #eafra will be the best way to speak your mind.

Hauptstadt

I lived in Germany for about five or six years in the nineties. In all that time, while I was ensconsed in the beautiful Black Forest town of Freiburg, I never once made it to the capital. Now I’m finally here.

I was invited to come to Berlin to be part of the jury for the highly-prized Biene awards. This is quite an honour. In the Biene awards, the emphasis is on accessibility and the criteria are really quite strict. It’s no cliché to say that just being nominated is quite an achievement.

One of the restictions on entries for the awards is that the site is primarily in German. I suspect that it’s my familiarity with the language that secured my place on the jury. The only problem is that I haven’t spoken German for six years.

Yesterday was judgment day. The jury gathered to debate and discuss the relative merits of the sites on offer. I had absolutely no problem understanding what everyone else was saying but as soon as I opened my mouth to add my opinion, I found that words and grammar were failing me at every turn. It was quite frustrating. I know if I was here for a few more days, it would all come back to me but having to dust down the German-speaking part of my brain after an interval of half a decade felt like quite a tough task.

I learned most of my German from sitting in pubs chatting with Germans, which is why I’m still fairly crap at reading and writing in the language. I usually find that my German improves greatly after one or two beers. Strangely though, after another three or four beers, I can’t understand a word anyone is saying. Komisch, nicht wahr?

The prize-giving ceremony will take place tonight. I can’t give away any of the results yet; that’s verboten. But I’ll definitely be blogging about some of the sites as soon as the pre-ceremony gag order is removed.

Until then, I have a few hours to explore Berlin. The good people from Aktion Mensch are putting me up at the ludicrously swanky Westin Grand, once the crown jewel of East Berlin. Its central locataion means that I’m just a short stroll away from the Brandenburg gate and plenty of other must-see attractions. Flickr demands pictorial evidence of such visual delights: I must obey.

Helvetican crossing

One of the services we offer at Clearleft is on-site training… a bit of this, a bit of that. It’s something that I really enjoy. Not only do I get to spend a day talking incessantly about the technologies that tickle my fancy, I also get to travel and meet web developers who are digging away at the coalface behind their company firewalls.

Thus far, our little roadshow has travelled within the UK to companies in London, York, and elsewhere. This week, we’re spreading our wings a little further. On Friday, I’ll be doing some DOM Scripting training in Basel, Switzerland located right on the nexus of France, Germany and the Confoederatio Helvetica.

It won’t be my first time to Basel. I’ve been there on a few occasions, mostly for the unique annual spectacle of the Morgensterich carnival. I used to live fairly close by, over the border in Freiburg, Germany.

I arrived in Freiburg many years ago with my bouzouki in hand and started busking on the streets. I ended up staying for about five or six years. Along the way I met Jessica, worked in a bakery and played bass in a surf-rock band. Then that whole web thing came along and set me on my present course.

I haven’t been back to Freiburg since moving to England six years ago. Seeing as I’m going to be in Basel anyway, I think I’ll take a trip up to the old town this weekend. I’ll revisit my old haunts and revisit the beer and wurst while I’m at it.

I hope my German hasn’t become too rusty in the intervening time. I guess I’ll find out if I’m able to comprehend the Schweizerdeutsch spoken in Basel.

Expect my Flickr photostream to fill up with pictures of Freiburg’s quaint alleyways and its wonderful cathedral. Tchüß… bis später.